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Christmas Paid for Itself

This is something really cool that I have been meaning to blog about since before Thanksgiving. Denise pointed out that I haven’t been updating my blog near enough (ugh, I just meta-blogged!)

So we wanted to get our family a Nintendo Wii for Christmas. They run about $225 – $300, which is reasonable, but then you start adding games and things get carried away pretty quickly.

So back in November we decided to start shopping. We tried WalMart and the other big box department stores, and they would promise to have some in first thing in the morning in two days, but then when I would show up, they would only have more empty promises that they would be in tomorrow or the day after. That got old quick.

Next we thought we would look online. The only place we could find a Wii by itself was eBay, but the price reflected the higher demand then supply. Since we still had some time we decided to file eBay away as a possibility and keep looking locally.

Then we called GameStop (a little video game boutique store), which had 80 Wii’s in stock. They were a $249, which is about $20 more then WalMart claimed to sell them for, but they were in stock. Bird in the hand is better then two in the bush and all that, so we decided to go for it.

Before we took the plunge, Dawn and I talked about it and decided we might take advantage of the price gap between GameStop ($249+ tax) and eBay (around $300+ shipping). GameStop said they were limiting Wii’s to two per person, so we decided to pick up a second one and sell it on eBay.

The next day I stopped by the GameStop across the street from the Alderwood mall next to my office. They had no Wii’s, so they called over to the GameStop in the mall across the street, which reported to have some in stock, so I headed over there.

When I got to the game stop in the mall, they said they only had 3 Wii’s in stock, so they were limiting it to one Wii per person, but the other GameStop in the mall should have more (it is a big mall). So I took one there, and went down the way to the other GameStop. They had a few, so they sold me 2 more (which I made the mistake of putting on the same receipt – oops.)

Now to list the Wii’s on eBay. We wanted the auction to end on a Saturday evening, so on Tuesday I started a 5 day auction. I looked at a few other successful Wii listings and borrowed bits and pieces and added some of my own verbiage. Listed the Wii, and then let Dawn review the listing. She said it was good, so I listed the second one. We decided to hold on to one just in case the well runs dry.

Needless to say, hiding 3 Wii’s in our apartment isn’t easy, Sherlock Jonathan discovered them. We strongly believe in not lying to our kids, but at the same time we didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag, so we told him we thought we would sell some Wii’s on eBay to make some extra money. His immediate response was that we should take the money from those Wii’s selling and roll that into buying more Wii’s to sell until we have enough profits to buy a Wii we could keep. I told him that was a great idea and we would see how it turned out.

Saturday night rolled around and we were out to dinner for TJ’s birthday. I decided to check my email on my phone and see if they sold. The first sold for $350 and the second sold for $400. I was quite pleasantly surprised. So we decided to pick up a few more Wii’s and repeat the process.

Listing subsequent Wii’s was really easy. You just select one you already listed and tell it to list again. I would tweak it from time to time to try different shipping prices and descriptive details. None of it seemed to make too big of a difference.

I continued to buy and list Wii’s and Dawn handled counting the money (via PayPal) and shipping them (through PayPal and UPS). Once we had the weight and dimensions of the box shipping was a snap. All in all, we made an average of $80 a Wii after eBay fees (listing is cheap, but they take a percentage on the sale), PayPal fees (another percentage) and Shipping (we listed them flat rate, but UPS charged on distance, so it averaged to about a wash).

Once Thanksgiving rolled around it got really hard to find them, and the price on eBay crept up a little bit. In the end we got a number of games and accessories to go with the Wii, as well as other gifts. The great thing is the Wii ended up paying for the rest of Christmas.

Making the extra money was great, but all the thank you notes from our buyers on eBay was very cool. Most of them said we made their Christmas. We had buyers as far away as Florida (a couple there) and as close as our same apartment complex (but they had their shipped 20 miles from here).

What did we learn?

  • Calculate all your fees in advance so you know what your real cost is.
  • Get each Wii on its own receipt so you can include the receipt with the Wii.
  • Because Wii’s were in such high demand, they were a commodity.  The listing duration (24 hours to 7 days) didn’t make much difference.  We always ended in the evening, but  different days of the week didn’t seem to make much difference.
  • Follow-up on feedback and you might still get it.
  • If you are willing to risk (starting your auction at $1), you can make a great payoff (all of our auctions ended in a profit).
  • Risk is mitigated in volume.
  • Once you find a winning strategy, repeat.
  • The best purchases are the ones that pay for themselves.

It was a great experience overall.  I hope Jonathan learned from it as well.